WORDS BY: APOSTOLOS MOKAS

Five years have passed since Tierra y libertad hit the streets (with the release of the three-song EP Diablo, Con Amor… Adios put out in between, in 2017) and Xibalba are back with a beast of an album. The fourth opus of California’s heavyweight hardcore / death metal ambassadors was released a few days ago via Southern Lord Records and we grabbed the chance to reach out to their guitarist, Brian Ortiz, to get some insight of Años En Infierno.

We write about how we are feeling in the moment

This time the band co-operated with Arthur Rizk (also known for his work with Cro-Mags, Code Orange, Inquisition, Power Trip) who added an even more brutal vibe to the trademarked ultra heavy Xibalba sound. ‘It is very very heavy. I think it is our best and biggest sounding record to date. Shout out to Arthur for killing it with the production!’, says Brian, ‘I felt great working with him. He’s been a good friend for a long time and we’ve been fans of both his work and his bands. We were looking to try something new and he helped out a fuck ton. He somehow managed to make us sound heavier than we’ve ever been. He brought out some good performances from us in the studio. He tweaked with our guitar tone. We’d work 10-12 hours a day every day for a week, come back to the hotel and drink, party and unwind. It was definitely a great atmosphere to be around’. 

The feeling of dystopia is floating in Años En Infierno, a feeling that is backed up by Nate’s (Rebolledo, singer) screams about death, lost souls, anguish and the abyss; heavy and dark topics that are always present in Xibalba’s records. Brian states that ‘there is no particular message or topic we want to get across. We write about how we are feeling in the moment. When we see something that may rub us the wrong way making us angry, we write it down, or if we are feeling depressed or anxious, we write about it. If we are feeling inspired or proud of our culture or how we grew up, then we will add that to the mix’. 

I feel like we have been living in hell for years, but with everything going on it is just adding to the hellishness

Living amidst harsh times, with the pandemic still on the rise, Xibalba’s music is definitely the soundtrack of what is happening in the world right now. Are we living those infernal years that the band claims with the title of the new record? ‘I don’t know, I feel like we have been living in hell for years, but with everything going on it is just adding to the hellishness’, Brian says. 

The cover of the new album was designed once again by Dan Seagrave, the British artist that is well known for the record covers of many death metal bands, especially from the 90s, like Benediction, Malevolent Creation and Dismember. Seagrave added a dark and metaphorical touch to the whole opus, with Babylon alike buildings burning into flames. After all, the cultural image was always a big thing for Xibalba and Brian agrees ‘it is very important to us. We are very proud of who we are, where we and our ancestors came from’.

When asked about the fact that nowadays many bands from the hardcore spectrum lean into metal in different ways varying from the music arrangements to merchandise designs and album graphics, Brian replies dead serious ‘there has always been metal that has been around hardcore but I do think there are a lot bands now that may be tapping into those influences a little more explicitly visually and musically. But it’s all good to me. Handle it. As for today’s scene, I always keep my ear to the ground. A few to name off the top of my dome is Final War, Dead & Dreaming, Frozen Soul, Unanswerable Hatred, Swampbeast, Teeth’. 

But what about Xibalba’s upcoming plans? Touring in 2020 seems to be pretty hard and it is a common fear inside the music business that we may have reached a point when live music as we know it will change forever. Brian is a bit more optimistic and thinks all this will pass sooner or later… ‘I don’t know at the moment, we’re just going to ride this wave of shittiness until it clears and then figure shit out from there. I don’t think live music will change forever, but it will change for the time being’.

Listen to Años En Infierno and let’s pray to the Maya death gods for these hard times that the world has been into the last months to end soon.

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